To non-native English speakers, usage of preposition is always a headache. When I consulted the definition of “of” with an English Japanese dictionary at hand, it gives 16 different patterns of usage starting from 1. possession, 2. attribution / belonging, 3. relationship / contents / limit, 4. equality / apposition, to 13. distance / range, 14. subject of action, 15. object of action, 16. causes / motives. It's far beyond my ability to master all of them.
With that said, I was interested in the function of ‘of’ in the following paragraph of Jeffrey Archer’s “Kane & Abel”:
After the feast Wladek enjoyed distributing gifts from Christmas tree, laden with candles and fruit, to the awestruck peasant children –a doll for Sophia, a forest knife for Josef, a new dress, a new dress for Florentyna – the first gift Wladek had ever requested of* the Baron. ‘Is it true,’ asked Josef of** his mother when he received a gift from Wladek, ‘that he is not our brother, Matka? ‘No, she replied, ‘but he will always be my son.’
I can understand the use of ‘of*’ The dictionary gives an example – He requested of his guests that they sit down.
But with the second ‘of,’ the Kodansha’s English Japanese Dictionary defines “ask A of B” as “demand A (thing) to B (person) as in ‘That’s asking too much of John.’ However, in the above quote, Josef is simply asking a question to his mother, not demanding a thing.
Is ‘of**’ indispensable in the sentence -‘Is it true,’ asked Josef of his mother ‘that he is not our brother? Doesn’t it make sense at all, if I wrote ‘Is it true,’ asked Josef (to) his mother,’ by omitting ‘of’?